NASA is now working with private companies to take the first steps in exploring the moon for valuable resources like helium 3 and rare earth metals. Initial proposals are due tomorrow for the Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown program. One or more private companies will win a contract to build prospecting robots, the first step toward mining the moon.
NASA—building on successful partnerships with private companies to resupply the International Space Station—is now looking to private entrepreneurs to help exploit resources on the moon. In its latest initiative, unveiled in late January, the US space agency is proposing private companies take advantage of NASA’s extensive know-how, its engineers and access to its installations to help design and build lunar robots. But unlike NASA’s contracts with SpaceX and Orbital Sciences to deliver cargo to the ISS, the moon proposal—dubbed CATALYST (Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown)—would get no US government economic help.